Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Cell-All smarter phone is DHS' version of the Tricorder

Remember the tricorder, that ubiquitous, do-everything handheld tool featured in the Star Trek TV program? Take a handheld computer, wave it around in front of a person to diagnose illnesses, or hold it up in the air during  field mission to detect chemical elements or energy sources. That device was one of the best examples of the ingenuity of science fiction.

Now, in a case of life imitating art, Star Trek science fiction is rapidly turning into science fact,  and it seems that  government agencies are at the leading edge of the research and development.

We’ve already pointed to the interest that the military has in developing Apple iPhone-like applications for its warfighters. Nothing specific right now other than it wants to investigate how the Army can enhance the iPhone; given the past history of wartime innovations we should expect some eye-popping innovations from  soon.

Now comes the news that the Homeland Security Department (DHS) is developing something it’s calling Cell-All, which will marry a smartphone with sensors capable of sniffing the air around it so it can isolate toxic chemicals. There are obvious uses for emergency responders, but also for military and other personnel looking for things as such hidden explosives.

DHS is looking to the telecommunications side of smartphones to help it develop linked sensors that could cast a broad and sensitive net of sniffers.

What these advances are taking advantage of is the acceleration in development of ever smaller, cheaper and more specialized chips along with faster and denser memory technologies.

Predictions just last year were that it could take 15 years for such things as wireless health sensors to appear, but you have it wonder what the projections will be at the end of 2010. The DHS, for example, is looking to have prototypes of its Cell-All device in a year.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Apr 19, 2010 at 7:27 PM


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